Urmila ‘s first instinctive reaction had been a flood of hurt for being rejected by both her husband n sister, followed by a deep and bitter anger. They had not considered her not at all, each intent on getting what they wanted. And then came the volcano of grief, like molten lava, exploding and scalding each sense, every thought on how she would be wrenched away from the man she loved for fourteen years. A man who did not love her enough , who could betray and forsake her yet again. He did not need her, her heart wept.
“Mila, don’t !” she heard Laksh say hoarsely . “Please don’t hate me so !”
She turned instinctively on hearing his beloved voice, unable to mask the stark despair in her eyes. He winced.
“Don’t hate me for what I have done”, he repeated.”Forgive me, if u can. I know I have failed you!”
There was a lump in her throat ; she could not speak. She did not want to speak; she did not trust herself. The sight of him was so precious….soon it was going to be rare, no, absent-she would not see him for years now. It struck her that they did not have much time. He would be leaving soon. There was no time for anger and rancor , for pain and regret , for hatred or forgiveness . All she could do was love him.
“I love you.” She breathed softly .“Go”
“Yes, I have to. But not with u thinking worst of me. Mila, I love u . But u think I don’t”, he said, his fingers unconsciously loosening her bun at her nape, the hairpin dropping at her feet.”Never , Mila, never think that. I cannot prove what I feel for you but don’t condemn me. Can you feel how you fill my heart, my being, my very soul?” he swallowed convulsively. “ You are in me. And that’s what I shall have when I am without you for the next fourteen years.”
Urmila clutched at his hand, and said tremulously, “Go, Swami. I shall not stop you…”she chocked.
“This is so difficult for us. Make it easier for me, Mila. Make it easier,” he whispered against her lips. “ You are my strength but also my weakness”.
With cold deliberation, she broke away from him. His arms dropped loosely at his side, his face crushed. It was up to her now. She had to be strong, stronger for him as well. One wrong word from her would undo their happiness.
“Love is very close to hate, it doesn’t take much to turn loving to hating “, she said slowly, looking hard into his darkened eyes, moist and soft. “ I love you….but I don’t recognize you anymore . I cannot but hate you for forsaking me . You have spurned me for someone else, something else. You say you love me but you cannot remain with me here in the palace and instead opt to go with your brother. For fourteen years”, she emphasized each word. “ It is he who has been exiled, not you. Why should you accompany him?????? He has Sita with him- the kind soul that she is, the dutiful wife”,she added deliberately .
Lakshman did not reply , he was staring at her in silent appeal.
“And how can I make it easier for you when it is you who has taken the decision ?” she continued ruthlessly . “I wasn’t considered at all, was I? I have known it since I fell in love with you, married you and came here that I would be forsaken- your brother comes first. Yet, I m asking for the impossible ?? That you don’t leave me alone here ?? Don’t say I m needed in the palace to take care of ur old parents .They have bhaiya n Shatrughan here. You either take me with you or don’t go there…stay here for me!!”
She knew she was extracting the impossible from him. She heard him taking in a deep, ragged breath. “You know I can’t do either”.
“I know you would refuse me, again”, she said flatly.”That is what your love is-hurtful and rejecting. You don’t love at all, Lakshman, you cannot love! You were right-you should have never married. You never did love me; even our marriage was forced upon you. It was a convenient arrangement that the other sisters got married to the remaining brothers. I was foolish to convince myself otherwise! All thanks to love!!! Or to whatever is left of it…”she deliberately left her sentence unfinished; as incomplete as she felt right now, as incomplete as she would be from now on.
Urmila went on, his stricken face licking a fire within her. “And anyway, I couldn’t have done what my sister has done . I m relieved that u did not propose so….Look at me, Saumitra!” she looked down pointedly at herself in her shimmering soft silks and gems.
“I m a princess, born in leisure n luxury. Would you expect me to spurn this to chase you in your misguided, wild adventure with your brother eating berries, walking barefoot and cooking meals for the two of you?” she scoffed, hoping she had laced her words with the exact amount of scorn.
She saw him flinch and she felt a sharp stab of sorrow as she realized she had succeeded in her attempt to hurt him as he had inadvertently hurt her. “Will deserting your wife and serving your brother make you more noble? Then let me hate you for that. Let me hate you for the forthcoming 14 yrs- that endless chasm u have driven between us. Now, go!”she choked, turning away …
She did not dare to read the loathing in his eyes; she did not
“So be it, Urmila”, she heard him say. For the first time he had used her full name in private-Urmila-meaning, waves of passion. But she felt passion draining out of her, filling her instead with waves of anguish followed by numbness. Her soul seemed to have been wrenched out of her, her listless, spiritless body, standing alone and upright, her back turned to him.
She heard him changing in the next room. Moments later, he came into his chambers again bare-chested , handsome n stark in his rough bark clothes, he still looked a prince….He seized her hand n forcefully thrust her fallen comb into her numb palm. And he left without a word.
You can hate me for all I just said. I hope I have made it easier for u now, she thought bleakly, made it easier for us, to hate rather than love for next 14 yrs of separation..
Would hatred be easier than loving???????????